Friday, December 1, 2017

Home Is?

Google Street View
What does home mean to me? What does it mean to you? A recent remark by The Missus Herself regarding the building we currently call home, and the fact that The Nuke is house hunting in Alexandria made me think about what "home" means.

Growing up it was "Home is where the heart is." Do I still think that? Well, yes and no. Perhaps "maybe" is closer to the truth. Can you sense my ambivalence here? Yeah, it's complicated when you've lived all over the place.

I get very attached to people, other life forms (think cats and dogs, even the occasional koi), also places and things.

Really Sarge, things?

Ever have a really comfortable pair of shoes that one day gave up the ghost or were so worn out that wearing them made you look semi-homeless? Same for a good old comfy pair of jeans. Remember the day you put those on and those old battered seams finally gave way?

Well, I've had that. I had a pair of shoes which were finally relegated to gardening and chores around the house. I wore those shoes to Italy. Those shoes walked the two-thousand year old paving stones outside the Flavian Amphitheater (what you might call, incorrectly according to our Italian guide, the Colosseum). Those shoes once walked the streets of the Roman Forum for crying out loud! Now they're used for painting and moving mulch.

So what does that have to do with home?

In some respects, home is where that worn out but still useful stuff dwells. But home, to me at any rate, has to be somewhat lived in. I've seen houses where only part of the place looked lived in. Have you ever seen the "show" living room which is off-limits to kids and pets? Even adults are only allowed into those spaces on very rare occasions.

There are no spaces like that at Chez Sarge. Sure, we have a fancy dining room with a big table and a chandelier (which The Missus Herself schlepped all the way back from Praha*). But if you look close you might notice that the rug under the table is a bit frayed from the cats scratching at it. There's at least one chair leg which looks like it had been gnawed by a dog. Probably because it was.

To me, a home has to feel comfy and welcoming. My Mom's place feels like home to me, though the longest I lived there was a couple of months after I retired from the Air Force. But a lot of the stuff in that wee house is the same stuff which filled the house I grew up in, less of it for sure, but familiar stuff from my childhood.

Where I actually grew up, the place The Olde Vermonter and his clan currently own and reside in, certainly feels like a home. But not my home. Sure, he's added an addition onto the house, which changed the character of the place a great deal. Actually made it better, but it's different, the echoes of my own childhood are faint. Until I go out in back of the house.

There lives the forest of my youth. Many of the trees from when I was young are gone or are so much larger as to be unrecognizable, but the forest itself remains. From the back deck it looks now even as it looked when I was a boy, dark and foreboding to a stranger, yet it beckons to me, it bids me to come walk the pine-needled underbrush below the tall pines, swaying and sighing in the north wind.

While it certainly doesn't seem comfy, especially in the Vermont winter, it is, to some, welcoming. On its own terms. Though it is no longer the wild primeval forest of the days before this country's existence, the echoes of those ancient times linger. As kids we could imagine the tread of moccasin-clad feet through the forest as the original inhabitants of that place went about their business, the roar of the falls on the Black River audible in the distance. (Sometimes on a quiet night, long after everyone has gone to bed, the sound of the falls still carries.) The scream of a catamount in the distance still echoes. (There are some who claim that the mountain lion is making a comeback in the state, many poo-poo the idea. But in the northern reaches of the state, perhaps up in that far northern corner of the state we call "the Kingdom," people have heard them, seen them, and seen the signs of a big cat in the area.)

While I am no longer "at home" in the forest, it's been too long since I spent time there, it still feels like home.

Here's some quotes I found which go far towards explaining "home" -
Where we love is home - home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. - Robert Frost

I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul. - Jean Cocteau

Home isn't where you're from, it's where you find light when all grows dark. - Pierce Brown, Golden Son

The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. - Maya Angelou, All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes

We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there. - Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon
My favorite quote of the bunch is Ms. Angelou's, especially the ache. As the family spread out across the country, a part of me went with each kid, a part of me lives where they live. I can go there and feel like I'm at home, yet my heart aches to be in those other places as well.

It has been said (by Thomas Wolfe among others) that, "you can't go home again." I understand the sentiment. When I returned to Mississippi for an Air Force school, a few years after I had spent a summer there with the wife and kids (for an earlier Air Force school), I went to the place (a condo) where we used to live. Long Beach, Mississippi, right across the highway from the beach.

As I sat in my car, looking at the place we used to live, seeing the lawn where my kids used to play, it felt empty. I quickly departed, it felt sad and lonely to be there by myself. Only now, looking back, do I understand that while that place used to be home, it no longer was. It was the "us" which made it home, not the building itself, not the lawn, not even the big tree right outside the patio door.

Sadly, not even that remains. Hurricane Katrina leveled the place. All that remained when I checked a couple of years ago was the concrete slabs where the buildings stood, the parking lot, and what remained of that big old tree, about ten feet of stump from what Google Earth showed. I can't even find it now, lots of new construction along that coast, though many empty slabs yet remain.

It's not that you can't go home again, you just have to know where home truly lies.

At any rate, that's my answer to the question posed above.

What's yours?

* Praha is what the Czechs call it. We anglophones call it Prague. You know how I am about languages.
Oh, one more thing, the house is the opening photo is not mine. It was owned by a friend of mine who moved to Florida some years back. Had some great times there. It was truly a home when Rick and Lori lived there.


  1. I really like the red house, I have always wanted to live in a Gambrel roofed house!

    1. I've always liked that house. The Missus Herself says it's too barn-like.

      Tsk, a feature, not a bug.

  2. Second that red house although that front door needs a "lid" over it for the rain and snow. Homes in snow country, look at those roof inclines(speaking as someone who has 2 snow rakes...chuckle).

    1. That would be a good idea.

      While we do live in snow country, sort of, we normally don't get that much. Knock on wood.

  3. Nah, I'm much more attracted to the Gray house. Fireplace, gabled windows upstairs and the front porch. I can very easily see myself in that rocking chair, adult recreational beverage in hand watching time go by.
    Course that could be because of its similarities to both my home and our guest house.
    Much like you, I've lived many places, I was only a year old on my first tour on Okinawa, so "home" to me connotes very little relationship with a building, but much more with people, animals, places, customs and courtesies.
    Excellent article.

    1. We had some good times in that house with our friends. It's nice inside and out.

      Thanks Juvat.

  4. IMHO, the red house looks unfinished, like the back of a lot of places.

    This post has tweaked the muse.
    Now to motivate. (IYKWIM)

    1. That might be because the house presents what I would call the side, not the front. Most houses have their long axis parallel to the street, this one has the short. Which makes it, to my mind, somewhat awkward looking. Almost as if it's unfinished somehow.

      IKWYM ;)

  5. Home is now inside a big concrete condo building, shared with a bunch of others who have somehow become family. We had to ("had" in the many senses) move away from a forty-five year life in Santa Cruz CA. Same house. Large collection of stuff at the end. Now in a quarter of the floor space, we are gathering another few units of stuff. When we go back to Santa Cruz, we know we made the right decision. Sad how the place changed so much. Maybe I could have done more.

    1. RE: Maybe I could have done more.

      Looking back, one often wonders if that is the case. I think you did what any reasonable human would do, walk away from the mess. You had your war, it's up to others to fight that battle on the Left Coast.

  6. Thank you for a most excellent post.

    Paul L. Quandt

  7. An Excellent post - especially the uneasiness concerning the re visiting of an old familiar space
    Been there, done that, got the ubiquitous chills as if you were expecting to come face to face with your former self...
    "and slammed on the gear box with 140 kms of panic" as a friend says

    Hence, I make a point of never visiting former places of service - my progeny jokes that I'm wanted there
    My ex suspects the causes but doesn't joke ;-)


    1. Heh. Same is true for many, no doubt.

    2. Itazuke might be fun for me. George, not so much. I think it is a prison.

    3. Both of which are no longer active.

      Had friends who were at George back in the day. They were ambivalent about the place.

  8. My childhood home which my family built ( now belongs to someone else. I'm friends with the guy who grew up in my room after mom sold the place so I could see inside again if I wanted to though. However, that's not as rewarding as what you get to do since your olde homestead is still in the family. I've owned and lived in my current home longer than anywhere else so it's home as home is going to get for me. I'm sure my kids will see our place like you see yours though, especially since I'm never leaving.

    1. Yeah, we've lived on Rancho Juvat WAAAYYYY longer than I've lived anywhere else. I don't intend to move.

    2. Tuna - Must be interesting (if not downright off putting) to see the old place under "new management."

    3. Lived 19 and change under my parents' roof. Getting close to that at Chez Sarge.

      I have no intention of moving. That being said, The Missus Herself may decide otherwise. I can but follow her lead.

  9. Home is where you can scratch where it itches.

  10. When I was helping clear out the homestead that the folks bought back when I was 3 and a half years old I took a bunch of pictures. Of the views out the windows, of the outside of the house, etc. They sold it and the new owners promptly began renovations, and added a porch across the front of the house. I haven't been back, it would just be too sad and painful for me. I lived in that house for 16 and a half years. It will always be "home" to me. Like the church I attended will always be "my" church. And I have lived, and owned several places, as well as attended different churches.

    The people and critters...think cats...are the ones that make a place a home. The stuff I value because I knew it was important to a previous ancestor, many of whom I knew.

    So I guess your first three quotes all speak to me. Robert Frost has long been a favorite.

    1. Cats are important in my estimation of what makes a home. Though a good dog works too!


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.